The fallout of Raymond Tanter's November 30 lecture at the University of Michigan, where he is emeritus professor of politics, continues. I covered it in an essay, "Is a Professor's Job to Teach or Obstruct?" that drew on conversations with Tanter and student organizers as well as newspaper reports. A few days ago, an anonymous Ann Arbor blogger, who goes by the name PeaceMonger posted this attempted rebuttal at the blog Zionists Out of the Peace Movement. He (or she) employs convoluted reasoning in an effort to argue that, first, Tanter wasn't interrupted and, second, his thoughts are so vile that it doesn't matter if he was.
PeaceMonger (PM) first charges that Campus Watch has "targeted" Kathryn Babayan, the Michigan professor of Near Eastern studies who, according to eye witnesses, sat with the hecklers (three of whom were arrested for repeatedly disrupting the event), carried a sign protesting Tanter's appearance, and insulted Tanter from the floor. All this, PM charges, is part of "an obvious intimidation attempt."
It is a conceit of the radical left that merely reporting their words and deeds amounts to targeted intimidation, if not censorship. Some might find this is a curious position, coming as it does from someone who openly heckles and intimidates invited speakers at academic gatherings. But true believer that PM is, he subscribes to a Gramscian/Marcusian ideology, which holds that free speech is repressive, and that preventing the dissemination of an oppressive, hegemonic discourse is liberating.
He shows this best when, after claiming (against the word of the eyewitnesses I interviewed) that Tanter's lecture wasn't interrupted so as to prevent it from being delivered as he desired, he writes:
Of course, Myers is, apparently, ignorant of or undisturbed by the fact that Tanter called for removing the Mujahedeen-e Khalq from the US State Department's terrorist list so that they can wage covert military action against Iran with the full expectation, as Tanter told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, that this will lead to "civil war" in Iran and, hopefully, (for Tanter) a military coup.
Here PM plays his hand, because Tanter's opinion on this subject has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the students who invited him, the audience who came to hear him, and of course Tanter himself have free speech rights that are inviolate. They do, but PM wants it both ways: on the one hand, he denies that any significant disruption of Tanter's lecture occurred, while on the other, he says in effect: the content of Tanter's speech may be so offensive to us that he doesn't deserve to be heard, whether he was or not.
This effort to change the debate--from whether or not, or to what degree, Tanter was interrupted, to an implicit claim that he holds opinions so odious that they do not deserve to be heard--doesn't wash. It is intellectually schizophrenic, so convoluted that only the duped or dishonest will fall for it.